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Minister Claims Iran’s Daily Oil Exports Up To 900,000 Barrels Despite US Sanctions

Iran’s oil exports have increased to around 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) and dramatically boosted revenue, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh Friday told reporters in Tehran on Friday [January 22].

Reports in recent months have suggested a recovery in Iran’s oil exports in the second half of 2020 from lows in 2019 and early 2020, after the Trump administration in May 2019 threatened sanctions against any country or entity buying Iranian oil. Until then, eight countries had waivers from Washington, and Iran sold around 1 million bpd of crude.

Zanganeh said that both exports and “access to revenue” had increased “very recently,” but declined to give figures. Iran has not provided production and export data to OPEC since the US threaten to sanction its customers.

The Wall Street Journal reported December 15(link is external) that Iran’s oil exports, largely disguised, had increased in recent months. The Journal quoted estimates from firms tracking global oil movements that ranged from 447,000 to 1.2 million bpd.

The destinations of shipments remain unclear. Given low oil prices worldwide and their clandestine nature, any Iranian oil shipments cannot fetch market prices, but Zanganeh’s statement serves a political point in demonstrating that Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ strategy has not been so effective.

After three years of sanctions squeezing Iran’s finances, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has proposed that the US return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, abandoned by former President Donald Trump, and lift the sanctions. New United States President Joe Biden has indicated his intention to return to the JCPOA, although his newly nominated aides have said this will take time, that allies will be consulted, and that Tehran should first return to the nuclear limits set by the deal, which it has breached in a series of steps since 2019 in response to Trump.

Zanganeh and other Iranian officials have in recent months put the total value of oil exports in 2019 and 2020 combined at $20 billion, under half the annual exports before sanctions.

Vice-President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, who also chairs Iran’s Planning and Budget Organization (PBO), said on September 3, 2020 that “sanctions do not allow Iran to sell even a drop of oil.” Nobakht’s point seemed to be that US sanctions threatening any entity dealing with Iran’s financial sector made it extremely difficult to repatriate earnings. On August 9 Nobakht was quoted by the website Mashregh News that during preceding months Iran had managed to repatriate only 6 percent of its income from oil exports.

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